Everyone has their breaking point.
We’ve already established in the newly formed, albeit protean field of quit literature, that sometimes it is merely a case of circumstance moving a man to a new town where surf is scarcer and the effort/reward ratio dips that causes the sword to be hung up.
Of course we all scoffed and/or thought “could not, would not happen to me” but maybe the truth is a little more prosaic.
Used to think I was pretty hard core.
Every fork in the road came my way I chose the one that went surf. Crewed a yacht from Hawaii to Guam, straight through the Marshalls, Micronesia. Days and days and weeks surfing empty atoll waves, anchored up in Kolonia harbour, surfing P-Pass before it was even a “thing”, before the Surfer mag cover blew it out.
Good waves, though, can be a curse, like the Egyptian Queen in Shakespeares Antony and Cleopatra they “make hungry where most they satisfy”. Their charms grow more compelling with time.
We rarely entertain sliding doors moments.
I could end up in Sydney, Bondi even. Honesty demands me to say I doubt I would last the distance. There would be some text messages from Derek, couple of go-outs. Then longer and longer radio silences. The lycra would beckon. An embarrassing encounter (or three) down on Campbell Parade with DR post surf and me in the lycra on the new road bike, eyes down.
Go-outs would shrivel up and die on the vine. I couldn’t cope with the downgrade. I think, like going down on all fours again after learning to walk and run. Sydney = quit for me.
Last week we had the week you dream about. Overhead every day, swells under the radar, hence few VAL’s around etc etc.
I got on the end of one with a bloke sitting with a dog on the grassy slope over-looking a local 300-yard Point wave. One guy out. We chatted.
“Out there?” I asked him.
He wasn’t out there. Was driving a truck and felt weird, so the story went. Stepped out and collapsed onto the road. Massive stroke. Forty years of surfing gone in an instant.
“You couldn’t get back out there?” I asked him.
“Took me twelve months to learn to walk again,” he said. “Surfing’s gone, it’s over. I watch now.”
Sunshine and swell beamed down on my local again yesterday. On the headland I saw a pal. Former pro surfer. One of the few with a winning record against Tom Curren. A man to whom old DH Lawrence could have been referring to when he said “For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive”.
Carved out of granite in his prime. He was downbeat, low energy.
“Everything OK?” I asked him.
“Nah, I’m really struggling eh.”
Anxiety and depression had him by the balls, were hollowing him out like an old dead tree.
What to do, what to say?
We’re told now surfing is an antidote to poor mental health but I think the causal arrow points the other way. Poor mental health robs the joy from surfing, makes people quit. I hugged him, told him I loved him, to call me if he wanted to talk and then paddled out.
He did not.
Mental health, strokes, heart attacks, city close-outs…what else would make me quit? Cold water, yep.
My babe is English. Whiles back, when the bub was still in arms, we went back with the aim of making a go of it in the Mother Country. We were holed up in Bournemouth, a Victorian* seaside town on the English Channel. There is surf there, and a surfing community.
When I say surf, I mean days when the narrow channel has been whipped into a rideable windswell. The water is cold, grey and polluted. It smells like wet dog and rotten sausages. The prime spots, next to Bournemouth and Boscombe piers, magnificent, derelict structures, are surprisingly crowded.
I surfed, mostly to avoid causing my wife the embarrassment of explaining why her hard-core convict scum husband refused to paddle out.
If tomorrow she made the unilateral decision to move back to Bomo with the kids I would follow as meek as a lamb and, quit. A story on a pro surfer in Sweden whose daily bread is freezing cold onshore slop. Nope, quit.
San Diego, non-quit.
Florida, tarpon fishing.
Great Lakes, quit.
Scotland, quit. Well, maybe a splash and giggle once a year in the French shorebreak.
Not hard-core at all. Alhamdullilah, as Khabib would say.
Throw me out of the sub-tropics, away from warm blue water and good waves and I’d quit in a heartbeat. Soft core, to the core.
What would make you quit? Be honest.
Everyone has their breaking point. And what are your thoughts on this new genre of surf writing: quit lit?
Confronting or strangely comforting? Will it catch on? I think, yes.
*The Era, not the state in Australia.